So Frankly...

So Frankly...

Friday, May 6, 2011

More Economic Game for Your Money: Acquire

If you want to challenge me in a game (other than chess), this is it.  Why?  Because I will always play, and I always lose.  I don’t recall ever winning a game of Acquire.  It isn’t a difficult game, but I haven’t found a winning strategy.  In fact, most games of Acquire in our gaming group are won by the same player – Kay’s brother.

2008 Edition (photo by sbiliby)
Nonetheless, this game is the only game (again, other than chess) that I have rated a “10” on BoardGameGeek.  My definition of a “10” (quoted from my profile on BGG) is:

I have loved these games for a long time. I expect to always love them. If I am ever forced to live in a retirement community with a closet for a room, I will make sure I somehow have a copy of these games with me.

Acquire definitely fits; I am always stoked to play.  Like Monopoly, it is a game about making money in the hotel business.  The rules are about the same in complexity, though very different mechanically.  Where Acquire beats Monopoly is in game length and player participation.

In Acquire, each player has a “hand” of tiles and some money.  Tiles placed on the game board during play abstractly represent the growth of various hotel chains.  On your turn, you will select a tile from your “hand” and place it on the board, generally creating or growing a hotel chain.  After placement of the tile, you may buy up to three stock certificates of any hotel chains on the board.  No one actually “owns” a hotel chain, just stock certificates.  At times, the tile being placed will connect two hotel chains.  At that point, a merger occurs, with the smaller hotel incorporated into the larger.  The player owning the most stock in the smaller chain gets a big bonus and the player with the second most a smaller bonus.  All players have the option of selling the stock they own in the incorporated hotel chain to generate income.  Play continues until one of the end game conditions is met; generally the game is played until one hotel chain reaches a size of 41 tiles.  At that point, all assets are converted to cash, and the player with the most money wins.

1968 Edition in play (photo by Matthew Gray)
Note that there is no die rolling.  The key to the game is having an idea of what hotel chains your opponents are interested in growing, and predicting which hotels will merge and which will grow based on that information.  Should you capitalize on that information, and try to gain one of the top two stock owning spots for that chain, or should you try to build your own chain?  Is there a middle ground?  Don’t ask me!  Remember I lose!

1968 Edition (photo by toh!)
That’s the game in a nutshell.  The rules are not much more complex than Monopoly.  The decisions are far more varied and interesting.

Acquire, however, plays in roughly 90 minutes.  It is not the four hour marathon Monopoly can be.  Turns are relatively short.  Often, players are involved even when it isn’t their turn due to the mergers.  Players are engaged the whole time.

Let me rephrase that: All players are involved the whole time.  There is no player elimination in this game, which is another huge improvement over Monopoly.  In fact, if Acquire were to be premiered today, it would be labeled a European style game.  It has no player elimination and is somewhat abstract.  With money acting as the victory points, the game has mid-game scoring (mergers) and end game scoring (final tallying of assets).  While I am not a huge fan of the thematic abstraction that Euros tend to be designed on, it seems to fit here.  After all, trading in stocks seems to be a little abstract in the real world, too.  However, Acquire was originally published in 1962 by 3M (imagine that!) before Euros were big in the US, and was pretty unique at that time.

One point Acquire loses to Monopoly is in number of players.  For any meaningful interaction to occur, the game requires three players.  There are two-player variants online at BoardGameGeek, and they work pretty well, but it’s not the same.  Additionally, this game might not engage the kids, even though they might grasp the rules.  For casual gaming and families with kids over 10, it will be great.

1999 Edition (photo by andreo)
One note about purchasing:  The current version of Acquire can be purchase at a game store, either brick-and-mortar or online.  However, older 3M versions (particularly the 1968 version) can often be found on eBay or in thrift stores for a bargain.  The components are somewhat different – some say better – but the game play is exactly the same.  So if you tend to haunt those places anyway, it may be worth your while to look for a copy.  If you find the 1999 version for a reasonable price, you found a treasure!  (And please let me know!)

Vital Statistics:

                Ages:                     12 and up
                Time:                     90 minutes
                Players:                 3-6

It’s Your Move!

1 comment:

  1. It is the game that broke my "never won a game" streak :-) I think we have taken a long enough hiatus from it~I'm ready to play it again!